ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Thursday he hopes his forthcoming visit to Colombia will help a fledgling peace process in the country, and urged a return to stability in neighboring Venezuela.
Speaking to reporters on his plane as it headed toward Bogota, Francis said the trip was "a bit special because it is being made to help Colombia to go forward on its path to peace".
The Colombian government last year signed a peace accord with the guerrilla group FARC, ending half a century of war in the South American nation, but the country remains deeply divided over the terms of the deal.
Francis, making his 20th foreign trip as pontiff and his fifth to his native Latin America, will spend five days there, visiting the capital Bogota and the cities of Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.
The route to Colombia will take the pope's plane over neighboring Venezuela, which has been racked by months of protests against President Nicolas Maduro, who has tightened his hold on power amid an escalating economic crisis.
Francis said he hoped "the country might find good stability with dialogue for all".
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Crispian Balmer)